Over 50% of homebuyers don’t shop to find the best interest rate for their mortgage.  While a buyer wouldn’t rarely purchase the first home they look at, they will accept the rate and terms offered by only one lender.  yqYpwRw9YUiIxZHO3Ld5qg

While the borrower and the property affect the rate and terms that a lender may offer, it is not to be said that all lenders will offer the same terms and rates to the same buyer.  Credit score, home location, home price and loan amount, down payment, loan term, interest rate type and loan type all affect the interest rate but different lenders can interpret this information differently.

Shopping around to compare rate and terms for a mortgage is a reasonable exercise considering that a half percent lesser interest rate could not only lower the payment but the cumulative interest that is paid while that loan is outstanding.

Some borrowers don’t shop the mortgage because they are concerned that having their credit checked multiple times could adversely affect their credit score.  The credit bureaus take this into consideration when several requests are made by the same category of lender in a short period of time.

Check to see the difference 0.5% could make in the mortgage you’re considering by using the calculator provided by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Contact your real estate professional for a list of trusted mortgage professionals to consider.

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A simple decision to rent your current home instead of selling it when moving to a new home could have far reaching consequences. image.ashx

If you have a considerable gain, in a principal residence and you rent it for more than three years, it can lose the principal residence status and the profit must be recognized.

Section 121 provides the exclusion of capital gain on a principal residence if you own and use it as such for two out of the last five years.  This would allow a temporary rental for up to three years before the exclusion is lost.

Let’s assume there is a $100,000 gain in your principal residence.  If it qualifies for the exclusion, no tax would be owed. If the property had been converted to a rental so that it didn’t qualify any longer, the gain would be taxed at the current 20% long-term capital gains rate and it may incur a 3.8% surcharge for higher tax brackets.  At least $20,000 in taxes could be avoided by selling it with the principal residence exclusion.

Depreciation, a tax benefit of income property, is determined by the improvement value at the time of purchase or at the conversion to a rental whichever is less.  If the seller sold the home and took the exclusion and then, bought an identical home for the same price, he would be able to have 60% more cost recovery and avoid long term capital gains tax.

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It is always recommended that homeowners considering such a conversion get advice from their tax professional as to how this will specifically affect their individual situation.

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With roughly 12.5% of the population over 65 years of age, it is understandable that some of them are thinking of downsizing because they may not need the amount of space they did in the past.  There is something to be said for the freedom acquired by divesting yourself of “things” that have been accumulated over the years but are no longer needed.  image.ashx

Moving to a less expensive home, could provide cash that could be invested for additional income or savings for unanticipated expenditures.

Savings can also be recognized in the lower utility costs associated with a smaller home, not to mention, the lower premiums for insurance and property taxes.

Going from the home where you reared your family to one of the new tiny homes may be a bit extreme but downsizing to 2/3 or 50% of your current home may certainly be reasonable.  In some situations, your interests may have changed so that a different area or city might be a possibility.

At one time, IRS had a once-in-a-lifetime exclusion of $125,000 of gain from a principal residence but it was changed so that homeowner’s are eligible for an exclusion of $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers who have owned and used their home two out of the last five years and haven’t taken the exclusion in the previous 24 months.

Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this may apply to their individual situation.

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There are many reasons for wanting to have a home of your own like a place to raise your family, share with friends and feel safe and secure.  While investment opportunities rank high for most people based on the fact that homeowners’ net worth is over forty times higher than that of renters, so do the tax benefits that reduce tax liability.  image.ashx

  • Taxpayers who have owned and used a home for at least two out of the last five years, can exclude a maximum of $250,000 of gain as a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 of gain for married taxpayers filing jointly.
  • If the gain on a principal residence exceeds the allowed exclusion, the balance is taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate rather than the marginal tax rate of the homeowner.
  • Homeowners can deduct the interest paid on up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt used to buy, build or improve their first or second home.  They may also deduct the interest on up to $100,000 over acquisition debt that is a recorded lien on their first or second home.
  • IRS will allow taxpayers to decide each year whether to take the higher of the itemized deductions or the standard deduction.
  • Points paid on new loans for home purchases are considered interest and can be deducted in the year paid. On the other hand, points paid for refinancing a home must be amortized over the life of the mortgage.

For more information, talk to your tax professional and see IRS publication 523 and IRS Publication 936.

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Everyone knows that ice can make a drink cool or reduce swelling, but if you put it on your cell phone, it might just save your life.  image.ashx

The concept is simple.  Make a contact record in your address book with the name “ICE”, which stands for In Case of Emergency.  In the note section of the record, you would list your name, blood type and medical conditions along with prescriptions and physicians.  You’d also list the people and their phone numbers that can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Several years ago, a British first responder came up with the idea when his emergency unit responded to a call where the victim was unable to communicate due to illness or trauma.  The victim’s wallet didn’t indicate specific persons to be notified in an emergency.  The fireman went through his cell phone to try to identify a relative and wasn’t successful.

That’s when he came up with the idea of a universal entry into the address book for ICE where the necessary parties and special information could be kept.  The story received a considerable amount of publicity and spread across the pond to the United States and into many other countries.

While it isn’t recognized everywhere, it is becoming increasingly more popular.  Even if emergency technicians didn’t find it, the slight possibility that they would find it and it would make a difference would justify the few minutes it will take to create it.  Click here to download a card to carry in your wallet or purse.

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With fixed rate mortgages as low as they are, most purchasers or owners wanting to refinance might not even consider an adjustable rate loan.  The determining factor should be how long the person plans to be in the home and which mortgage will provide the cheapest cost of housing. image.ashx

For instance, if you compare a $300,000, 30 year term mortgage with a 4.125% rate on the fixed and a 3.25% on the 5/1 adjustable, the breakeven point would be almost seven years assuming the rates adjusted the maximum that they could in each year.

Therefore, if a person is going to stay in the house less than 7 years, the ARM would provide the cheapest cost of housing.  This example shows that at the end of five years, the ARM would generate almost $13,000 savings over the fixed-rate. 

On the other hand, this could be a good time for homeowners with an existing adjustable rate mortgage to consider refinancing into a fixed-rate mortgage.  The longer that they intend to stay in their home, the more advantageous it might be for them to convert their mortgage to lock-in their payment and fix their housing costs.

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A trusted mortgage professional can analyze the alternatives to provide you with the information necessary to make a good decision.  You can try the Adjustable Rate Comparison with your own numbers to see the effect.

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A good neighbor might be characterized as someone who’ll look after your home when you’re out of town by picking up your mail and watering your plants.  You’d most likely reciprocate for anyone who’d be so generous toward you.  image.ashx

In some cases, you might only be able to name one or two of your neighbors who would step up to that level of service.   Wouldn’t it be nice if more people on your street would be happy to make that offer?

The solution may just start with being a better neighbor first.  The following suggestions go a long way to improving your neighborhood and making new friends at the same time.

  • Meet your neighbors and exchange phone numbers and email addresses.  Agree with each other that you’ll let them know if you see something strange going on at their home.
  • Slow down when driving through the neighborhood; it will make it safer and everyone will appreciate it.
  • Control your dog: keep it on a leash; pick up after it; don’t let it bark too much.
  • Don’t park in front of your neighbor’s home.
  • Notify your immediate neighbors when you’re having remodeling done and ask them to let you know if any of the contractors cause damage to their property.
  • Let your neighbors know when you’re having a party and that there will be more cars on the street than usual.
  • Maintain your home and yard so that it adds to the beauty of the neighborhood.
  • Put your garbage out for collection on the correct day and bring the containers back in promptly.

In reality, it is fairly obvious; you just have to think of the things that you’d want from your neighbors.  Be friendly; don’t be noisy; offer a helping hand when available and respect each other’s boundaries.  Having a sense of community and that you all share the neighborhood can be underlying principles that will guide your behavior.

A good neighbor would be aware of suspicious activity and would call their neighbors and the police if warranted.  This might be something you can discuss with your neighbors.  Click here for a template to record your immediate neighbor’s contact information and keep readily available if needed.

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A homeowner’s tax saving benefit is generally realized when they file their federal income tax return after the money has been spent for the interest and property taxes.  Some people look forward to the refund as a means of forced savings but some people need to realize the savings during the year. image.ashx

It is possible to adjust the deductions being withheld from the homeowner’s salary so they realize the benefit of the savings prior to filing their tax returns in the form of more money in their pay checks.  Employees would talk to their employers about increasing their deductions stated on their W-4 form.

By increasing the exemptions or deductions, less is taken out of the check and the employee will receive more in each pay check.  If a person over-estimates their exemptions and therefore, underpays their income tax, they might incur interest and would have additional tax to pay when they filed their tax return.

Buyers considering this strategy should seek tax advice and discuss it with their human relations department at work.   Additional information is available on the Internal Revenue Service website about Completing Form w-4 and Worksheets.

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Is the stock market keeping you up at night?  Are you consuming more antacids than ever before?  Are the ups and downs causing more stress than you want or need?  There is a simple alternative in rental real estate.

Single family home for rental purposes offer an excellent rate of return in an investment that most people understand better than other investments.  The concept is simple: stay with predominantly owner-occupied homes in a slightly below average price range.  In most areas, tenants are easy to find and they’ll usually stay two to three years or more.  image.ashx

For the person who doesn’t want to be bothered with calls from tenants, professional management is available and commonly won’t dramatically affect the rate of return.  Managers can achieve economies of scale that individuals can’t due to managing multiple properties and having good connections with the best workmen.

Unlike most commercial property, single family homes are much more liquid because of the higher demand for residential property.  Single family homes offer the investor the opportunity to borrow high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates, for long periods of time on appreciating assets with tax advantages while providing the investor a higher than normal level of control.

Spend an hour investigating the benefits and you might sleep better at night, eat less antacids and find yourself more mellow than you’ve been in years.

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If you invest in a savings account, you’ll make less than 1% and would have to pay income tax on the earnings. On the other hand, contribute something extra to your house payment and you’ll earn at the mortgage interest rate which is certain to be more than you are earning in the bank. image.ashx

Making additional principal contributions on your mortgage will save interest, build equity and shorten the term. An extra $100 a month in the example shown will save thousands in interest and shorten the term of the mortgage as well.

Reducing your cost of housing is another way to improve the investment in your home. Becoming debt free is a worthy goal that is achieved with discipline and good decisions. Suggestions like this are part of my commitment to help people be better homeowners when they buy, sell and all the years in between.

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Check out what would happen if you were to make additional payments on your mortgage.

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